last update: Jan. 29, 2019, 11:01 a.m.
A major bug in Apple’s FaceTime app surfaced on Monday that allows anyone with an iPhone or iPad to eavesdrop on other users without their knowledge. Apple said Monday evening that it was aware of the glitch, was working on a fix and would release it in a software update later this week.
In the meantime, Apple has turned off Group FaceTime, the feature that allowed for surreptitious listening, which should temporarily resolve the issue. But for those who want an extra layer of security, follow these steps to turn off FaceTime on your devices.
Before you do anything, you need to make sure your iPad or iPhone was affected by the glitch. It exists on iOS devices with the most recent software updates, starting with iOS 12.1, which was released in October. That release introduced the Group FaceTime feature.
To check your iOS version, open the “Settings” app, scroll down and select “General,” and then click on “About.” In the following list, you’ll see a line titled “Version” followed by the operating system on your device. It may say 12.1.3, the latest iOS update.
If your iOS is 12.1 or newer, such as 12.1.3, your device could be at risk. If it is 12.0 or older, you’re in the clear.
It’s not clear if the glitch is also affecting Apple computers, but the Group FaceTime feature was recently introduced on them, starting with MacOS 10.14.1 in October. Check the current version on your Mac by selecting the Apple icon in the top left of your screen and clicking on “About This Mac.” The latest version is MacOS 10.14.3.
On an iOS device, open “Settings” again. Scroll down a bit until you see “FaceTime” and select it. This part is simple: Tap the green button on the top row, which will toggle FaceTime off. The button should turn gray and everything that had been below, such as your app settings, should disappear.
Apple says there’s no need to delete the app on your home screen after following this step, but nothing’s stopping you.
Just note that if you disable FaceTime, your phone will not receive any kind of FaceTime call, including video, audio or group chat. Regular phone calls won’t be affected.
To turn off FaceTime on Macs, open the app, which may be in your dock or in your Applications folder, select “FaceTime” at the top left of the app, and then select “Preferences.” Click on “Sign Out.”
Apple said that a software update scheduled for release later this week should resolve the Group FaceTime bug. When it is announced, make sure to update your devices by going to “Settings,” then “General” and selecting “Software Update.”
After that, re-enable the FaceTime app by following Step 2. On iOS devices, toggle the FaceTime button in “Settings” until it turns green again. It may take a bit of time for your old settings and account information to reappear. On a Mac, open the app again and sign back in under “Preferences.”
And if you deleted the app on your iPhone or iPad, you can re-download it through the App Store.